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Duke Study Seeks Solution To Smallpox Vaccine Shortage

Posted January 8, 2003

— Health care workers and military personnel are among the first to receive smallpox vaccinations. People in the Triangle may be next.

A study at

Duke University Medical Center

is approaching the smallpox vaccine in a new way that could change the way the United States responds to an attack.

"The concern is that we don't have enough vaccine in our current supply," said Dr. Emmanuel Walter, a researcher at Duke.

Walter and his team are testing to see if a diluted smallpox vaccine will go further.

Studies already show it works for people who have never received the smallpox vaccine, said Walter.

But this study focuses on the people who got the vaccine years ago, but may not be fully protected now.

Some participants will receive a full dose and others get a watered down version of the vaccine.

Walter said there are risks. The vaccine can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening side effects. He said people who have received the vaccine before are less likely to have problems the second time.

"People need to weigh the potential risks for them," Walter said.

Walter said he received the smallpox vaccine again in order to run the study.

"I got it about two months ago," he said.

Despite the risks, he said people have seemed willing to sign up for the study.

"The response so far has been very brisk," said Walter.

People ages 32 to 70 who have been vaccinated against smallpox are being recruited for the study. For more information call (919) 668-8627.


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